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Collaborate to build civilization in a simulated ecosystem, creating laws to make group decisions.
Collaborate to build civilization in a simulated ecosystem, creating laws to make group decisions.
4,583 backers pledged $202,760 to help bring this project to life.

New Eco Stretch Goal: Player-Run Criminal Justice System (PvP)

Posted by John Krajewski (Creator)

PAX is finished, and Eco had an incredible reception there! Met a ton of backers (many of which signed up at the booth), and added a large number of email signups. So a big thanks and welcome to our new visitors from PAX, will be great to have you part of the growing Eco community.

At PAX we ran a living world that players will able to participate in, working to collect and process mining, logging, and food resources, while dealing with the pollution generated and the impact on the ecosystem. PAX attendees voted on laws governing what players were allowed to do.

The results are as follows; despite players collecting large amounts of resources, working to cleanup pollution by containing it, and voting for the most part pretty conservatively towards ecosystem protection, the PAX world sadly did not achieve the resource goals needed to stop disaster and was destroyed by a meteor at the end of the show! This was not unexpected, as we want the game to require a huge amount of planning, collaboration, and long-term data backed decisions, which is hard to achieve from attendees dropping by the booth, despite some dedicated attempts. Success will be difficult in Eco, and I’m excited by these results, and looking forward to seeing the efforts that groups of players put in to stop the meteor during alpha.

New Stretch Goal: Player-Run Criminal Justice System (PvP)

We are very close to our 150k stretch goal of Land Ownership, and we’re making a change for our next goal. Our 200k goal will be a Player-Run Criminal Justice System, which will be our Player-vs-Player (PvP) system. Here’s how it will work:

Currently, players are not allowed to break laws, the server will prevent laws from being broken by stopping the player’s action before it occurs. With this stretch goal, we will add a new option to servers: Players will be allowed to break laws, but doing so will flag them as a criminal and make them open to being arrested and punished.

Flagging criminals

In this system, each time a law is proposed it must include a list of punishments for violating it, and a ‘statute of limitations’ for how long players will be susceptible to arrest from it. If a player violates a law, they will be flagged as a criminal for that length of time, but that flag will be only visible to witnesses.

A player witnesses a crime if they are in visible range when it occurs. They can also detect a crime using a new forensic skill that allows players to examine a crime site (a tree chopped down against the rules, a player house broken into, an elk killed in violation). If their skill is high enough (depending on the recentness of the crime), they will be added as a witness. Players can share their witness status with any other player they encounter, and anyone who is marked as a witness to a crime will be allowed to arrest the player.


To arrest a player, they must be caught by the other player, and weapons can be used by witnesses against criminals to subdue them. Players will not generally be able to attack other players, with only witnesses being allowed to attack criminals to subdue them. Players can be arrested while offline if they can be found(their avatar will stay in the world), and features will be added to track the whereabouts of criminals.


Once arrested, the punishment for breaking a law will be applied, which can include:

  • Monetary fine - Automatically removing items/currency from the player’s inventory/home and putting them in public ownership. 
  • Jail time - If a jail is built in the world, they can be constrained to a cell for a given amount of real time. 
  • Death penalty - The character is deleted from the server and the user banned from logging in to that server in the future. 

If we achieve this stretch goal, we’ll be continuing to evolve the design and implementation of this feature, so expect changes, removals, and additions of what’s described here, but the basic premise will remain: players will need to manage the enforcement of laws in their world, and some may decide to devote their time in Eco to either violating the laws for self-gain, or bringing justice to those that have violated the laws. 

I expect this to be one of the most interesting aspects of Eco, watching how societies determine what’s allowed in the world and what punishments should be met upon those that violate that, and the effect it has on the success or failure of the world as a whole. This feature adds an extra layer of difficulty and replayability to the game, and playing on a large server in which laws can be broken will be very difficult to succeed on, with only the best-run governments, economies, and criminal-justice systems finding a way to succeed. We’re excited to see the user stories that would come out of this feature.

As always a huge thanks to our backers for pledging to and sharing the project, I hope we can pull together and push our Kickstarter through to another stretch goal in our final week!   Can't wait to get players starting in the game in our October alpha.

-John K

Designer of Eco and President of Strange Loop


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    1. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Eli Yes! I can see youre finding all the awesome implications of this. The extortion thing is really interesting as well, I hadn't thought of that one, and I bet it would totally happen naturally.

      @NoBlackThunder Yeah thats a good idea. I like the design of having tech in the game required to do certain punishments, like you need a jail built before you can jail people, same for other methods.

      @Eli Add On list is a good idea. I will do that.

    2. Missing avatar

      NoBlackThunder on

      @john you still can have the death penalty ? this one just totally resets your character but does not delete it =P ? would be a fun 4th option before banning anyone

    3. Elliander Eldridge

      Good Question! Could we maybe get an add-on list, so that if we want to buy a copy for someone else we just add the appropriate amount and specify what it was and for who in a survey? Might be easier to get to 200k that way ;)

    4. Elliander Eldridge

      Oh yeah. And extortion goes with bribing. Maybe the criminal doesn't try to bribe someone, but the witness extorts them. At that point someone witnessing the exchange would see the person extorting as committing the crime so that increases the risk for the person trying to profit from someone else's crime while eliminating a portion of the risk for trying to get away with the crime and therefore increase the likelihood of someone making use of such a system. Unless of course society puts laws in place to stop someone from responding to extortion favorably.

      And maybe there could be a personal log just for the player so they could see at a glance how many times they bribed, extorted, or committed a crime. A kind of corruption meter so that you can know what kind of player you are. With that kind of measurement in place it might be possible to implement mod down the road which fight allow for some kind of a Karma response from the game. Being more or less corrupt in and of itself might actually be able to do something.

    5. Elliander Eldridge

      Personally, I don't mind it being called a "Death Penalty" although "Exiled" sounds good too. If you go the exile route, maybe there could be a special zone for exiled players. So they aren't deleted, they just can't go anywhere or do much if anything. That would actually make it possible to pardon the player after the fact. For example, suppose a school want to run a simulation and have children set it up as what it's like to live under a dictatorship. If someone goes too far and is deposed maybe the new government can decide to bring that person back. Or maybe if you have a justice system that's capable of making a mistake it would be possible to undo.

      As far as bribing witnesses goes, if you implement that I have two other ideas that could go with it: you could let the person who is bribing know how many witnesses there are. That way they know how many people to bribe. Or, alternatively, they will know that it's futile to bribe anyone at all because the penalty is smaller than the cost of silence.

      Also, if brides could do more than protect after the fact that would be interesting. For example, maybe you will agree to forfeit all crimes you witness against a specific person in exchange for something. It would be easier for players to set up criminal organizations if they had that element of trust. Alternatively, maybe you will have a dirty politician. Maybe an industrial player will bribe the Judge in advance of the crime to get away with it. Although there should also be a risk. Bribery could easily be against the law as well. Attempting to bribe someone and failing would make that person a witness to a new crime which could significantly increase the hesitation in trying to go this route. And of course, if someone else witnesses you accepting a bribe that's a scenario where taking the money now makes you the criminal. There are quite a few ways to run that. All of a sudden the PvP element goes from just killing people to haggling for their ill gotten gains. Maybe players will train in forensics for the sole purpose of seeking out those bride and taking them. There's quite a bit you can do with that.

    6. John Krajewski Creator on

      Getting a lot of responses from people that they're not comfortable with the wording of 'death penalty'. I think we can change the wording 'exiled' and make it functionally the same.

    7. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Bryan Hakey Thanks Bryan!

    8. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Elliander ooo, selling your 'witness' status, I love it. 'Delete witness of crime X' could be something you exchange in a trade. I think we will do this. Corruption could be such an interesting conflict mechanic, way more interesting than usual enemy AI in games.

      The idea of faulty witnesses is interesting. An idea I've been tossing around is the idea of players marked as judges, and they can pass punishments on players breaking laws even if they're not detected by the system (to allow laws that are too complex to be auto-detected by the game).

    9. John Krajewski Creator on

      @guy wolf Players that run their government will likely see their society go the same way of real-world governments that are incredibly harsh (ie, not so great)

    10. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Scots you got it covered, thanks :)

    11. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Max Power yeah something like that would be great. Rewards or a tax-funded police system would be an interesting way to fund justice in the game.

    12. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Rodlon The death penalty is currently the only way a player can die, and it's permanent. Currently if you take a lot of damage you become incapacitated (unable to do much till you heal), but you don't die.

      Yep it's a planet and you can walk all the way around in any direction.

    13. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Joel exactly, police officers funded by public funds taken from taxes. Would be a fun job.

    14. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Patrick & @Philips yeah good points both. Still working out how criminals attacking people attempting to arrest them will work. Current thinking is they're not allowed. An alternative is they can fight back, but it's an additional law violation (resisting arrest, assault).

    15. John Krajewski Creator on

      @Geno Harsh indeed, but its up the players. Keep in mind that servers can be hit by meteors and everyone dies, so it's already a world of harsh consequences. Banning for a period of time is an option players could put in the law.

    16. Missing avatar

      Bryan Hakey on

      Love this particularly the part about witnesses. I think it's plenty realistic (for a video game).

    17. Elliander Eldridge

      This is definitely an interesting approach, but I agree that people caught should be allowed to protect themselves from witnesses. I think the core problem with that is the ability of a witness to share the witness status and expect that those non witnesses instantly know the witness to ne reliable. That's not really how it works in the real world. People can be wrong and people can lie. Perhaps a better approach would be to have some skill that causes a chance of failure at transferring the witness status, or only transfer part of what is witnessed. For example, if you catch someone cutting down 10 extra trees and poaching a protected species maybe one person recieves the witness report of just one tree while another person only sees the poaching report and maybe someone else gets nothing. At this point it will be possible for the defendant to lie about the severity of the crime to try to get a lesser sentence if enough people are not convinced.

      Also: What about a system of bribes bundled into the contract interface? Say I witness someone violating a law. I can promise not to arrest them or transfer the witness status to others in exchange for a given item (or maybe even a long term deal for a crime) and if the goods are not delivered it would allow me to be a witness again. This would in turn allow criminal conspiracy, where multiple criminal persons can exchange silence and criminal goods just like real life back room deals. This in turn can lead to criminal organizations set up like corporations with their own rules which can go against the rules of the government.

    18. Missing avatar

      guy wolf on

      There is a problem with this.
      Most likely everyone will just put a infinite amount of time to arrest a criminal and a death penalty/ stupidly high penalty for all of the laws because its not like the real world where you cant change server and every crime affects you for years.

    19. Scots on

      Rodlon: The world is round so walking in one direction will get you back to where you started. Also at the moment I believe you can't die. Your health would be so low so you can't do as much as you could normally until you get nursed back to full health.

    20. Max Power on

      I'd add the concept of a fixed point object that can also act as a witness.
      That way the "Police station" can have a wall of Wanted posters...

      Possibly a way for citizens to add a reward for the arrest of specific criminals ?

    21. Missing avatar

      RODLON on

      The death penalty is very interesting. How are you handling regular death right now? Do you respawn in the hospital after you drown in the river?

      Also, is the world actually a "planet" where you can walk straight and arrive where you were or is it a flat world like minecraft with invisible walls at the end on the simulation?

      If you implement the pvp thing, I think a "Trolling Law" will came up.

    22. Patrick R. Kelley

      @Philip Jenkins - Deliberate troll tracks somebody to wilderness, deliberately cuts down a tree in violation of a rule while in eyesight to make them a witness, and immediately attacks them, "defending themselves." It would allow trolling pvp, and murder. And prisons being escapable? That would probably depend on how they are built, like any other building. If you build a dirt prison, expect them to escape. Build a stone one? Less likely.

    23. Philip Jenkins on

      Criminals should be able to defend themselves against witnesses. Also witnesses should be able to report their crimes. Possibly there should be a central location/ building in which you can report crimes. Also prisons should be escapable.

    24. Joel Reid on

      Excellent idea!
      I can see the job of 'police officer' being taken by players to deliberately hunt down any criminals.

    25. Harrison buckley on

      Geno thats for trolls that want to destroy the world

    26. Micheal Wilds on

      Keep up the Good work ���

    27. Geno Doucette on

      Seems a little harsh to be banned from a server. Maybe just a ban for a certain amount of time?